The Monday Agenda 6/3/2013

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey: Finished previous week, reviewed this past week. Amazing book. My review is here.

Tempest Reborn by Nicole Peeler: Done! I laughed and cried my way through the final book in the Jane True series. My review is here.

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris: Finally started, will continue this week.

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks: Done! My review of this graphic novel is here.

Read but not reviewed: I read the first three volumes in the graphic novel series Morning Glories — and will not be reading any further. I found the plot confusing, scattered, sadistic, and not terribly engaging. I continued reading the series beyond volume 1 only to see if the storyline would become clearer or if my impression of the books would improve. Neither happened.

Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis. My son and I are continuing our Narnia read-aloud, and enjoying it very much.

Fresh Catch:

My book haul this week is a bit more modest than last week. I bought one new book, picked up used copies of three books that I’d already read but didn’t own, and added an ARC to my list of upcoming reads:

Fair Coin (Coin, #1)Cinderella, Vol. 1: From Fabletown With LoveThe DovekeepersDelirium (Delirium, #1)The Sea of Tranquility

And then on Thursday, I went to a lovely book event and got my copy of this book signed by the author:

The River of No Return

I know I’ve raved about this book several times already, but seriously — I loved it! Check it out. (My review is here)

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

I’ve just gotten started with Dead Ever After, the final entry in Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series.

Next, I have a few library books waiting for some attention. I plan to read Doll Bones by Holly Black next, and then Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan.boy1

The kiddo and I should be finished with Prince Caspian in the next couple of days, and I’m assuming that he’ll want to keep plowing ahead with our Narnia read. Not that I’m complaining! Besides being tremendously fun, I feel like I’m finally filling in a gap in my childhood reading history.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

Book Review: Tempest Reborn

Book Review: Tempest Reborn by Nicole Peeler

Tempest Reborn (Jane True, #6)Question: How do you write a review for the sixth and final book in a series without giving away spoilers for the earlier books?

Answer: Very, very carefully.

Tempest Reborn is the eagerly anticipated final entry in Nicole Peeler’s hip, funny urban fantasy series about small-town girl Jane True, who is definitely a lot more than she appears to be. When we first meet Jane in book one, Tempest Rising, she’s an introverted 20-something living in Rockabill, Maine, where she’s both ostracized and demonized for causing her high school sweetheart’s death — at least, that’s how the most vocal townies see it. Jane worries about her not-so-healthy father and works in the charmingly named Read It and Weep bookstore, has terribly low self-esteem, and escapes to the ocean for a swim whenever she needs a pick-me-up. Jane’s world is completely rocked, and forever altered, when she stumbles upon a murder and gets caught up in the investigation. The biggest revelation? Jane’s mother was a selkie, and Jane herself is considered a halfling — half human, half supernatural, with magical powers and gifts that she could never have imagined.

Over the course of the six books in the series, Jane learns more about the hidden supernatural world, develops her powers, finds deep and meaningful friendships and connections , and at the same time, becomes embroiled in supernatural scheming and politics, has her life endangered countless times — and  finds the love of her life.

Meanwhile, throughout, we get to know Jane, and boy, is she a delight. Jane is a down-to-earth kind of girl, happiest in leggings and a t-shirt, fond of sweets and snacks, and not too shy about her libido. You could say that Jane’s appetite for delicious food is matched (or exceeded) only by her appetite for hot, no-holds-barred sex. (Not that she’s at all slutty, mind you; but when the right guy comes along, wowza, does she have fun.)

Nicole Peeler’s writing is uproariously funny. Like, I laugh out loud when I read these books, and I am not easily prone to fits of LOLing when I read. Jane is hilarious, silly, loyal, blunt, and really rather adorable.  Some delicious little Jane-isms from earlier books:

I wasn’t running now so much as stumbling quickly, panting like a geriatric lion. (Tracking the Tempest)

That hair-pulling thing he did really peeled my bananas. (Eye of the Tempest)

They were paragons of conservative propriety in public, but in private they swung like pinatas. (Tempest’s Legacy)

Some heroes are born. Some are made. And some are bribed with promises of food and sex. (Tempest’s Fury)

In Tempest Reborn, all of Jane’s struggles and triumphs reach a climax, with danger and disaster lurking around every corner. Book #5, Tempest’s Fury, ended in one of the cruelest cliffhangers I’ve ever read — particularly in a series that generally leavens the deadly peril with big doses of hilarity. That ending! I think Jane True fans everywhere let out a collective shriek on the last page… and then we waited… and waited… for Tempest Reborn.

Tempest Reborn picks up immediately after that shocker of an ending, and proceeds to slam readers up and down and off the walls a few times in the first few chapters alone. This is a decidedly much less funny book, simply because Jane is dealing with calamitous events, and there’s precious little to smile about, much less indulge in out-and-out laughs. The stakes are higher than they’ve ever been, Jane is at the center of the ultimate power struggle, and her life and the lives of everyone she loves hang in the balance. And… I really can’t say more about the plot. Read the books, dammit!

Nicole Peeler has a remarkable gift for language, creating a texture and idiom in her narration and dialogue that’s easily identifiable as belonging to Jane’s world. And what a rich world it is! The author’s talents extend to an incredibly creative knack for world-building. The rules and intricacies of this supernatural society are superbly defined, so that we the readers absolutely know by the sixth book what it all means and where our beloved characters fit in.

Plus, it’s all just great fun. Memorable characters include Iris the succubus, Daoud the djinn (who seems to be able to pull any object he needs out of his magical pants), Caleb the satyr (who is pants-challenged), Nell the gnome, Anyan the incredibly hot barghest, and on and on. There’s royalty, there are rebels, and — check out the cover — there are even dragons.

As a fan of the series, I was completely satisfied by the dramatic conclusion to the story — and very appreciative of the epilogue (which, again, I won’t say anything about, because — spoilers!). I’m sad to see it all come to an end, but I’ve enjoyed every moment of reading this uproariously funny, sweetly romantic, and scorchingly sexy series. I can only hope that Nicole Peeler will choose to set more stories in this universe that she’s created — but whatever she writes next, I’m in.

janes2

My Jane True collection. Read ’em all!

The Monday agenda 5/27/2013

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig: Although I read it the previous week, I just wrote a review this past week. Click here to see what I thought.

Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley. Read but didn’t review. While parts of Amity and Sorrow — a story about a mother and two daughters trying to rebuild their lives after escaping a polygamous fundamentalist cult — were interesting to read, overall I found the book didn’t hold my attention very well. In the end, rather than write a not-very-positive review, I opted not to review it at all.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey: Just finished. One word review: Wow. I’ll be writing an actual review shortly. Don’t miss this intense book about an alien invasion.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. My son and I finished our read-aloud of the 2nd book in the Narnia world this week, and are happily continuing with #3.

Fresh Catch:

A big haul this week — five library books plus a review copy of the upcoming new release in the captivating Last Survivors series by Susan Beth Pfeffer:

This Is What Happy Looks LikeDoll BonesFathomless (Fairytale Retellings, #3)InvisibilityDead Ever After (Sookie Stackhouse, #13)The Shade of the Moon (The Last Survivors, #4)

And in graphic novels, a couple of new ones from the library, plus I picked up a copy of a Fables-related title which I’d previously read but didn’t own:

Friends with BoysMorning Glories, Vol. 1: For a Better FutureCinderella, Vol. 2: Fables are Forever

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

I’m planning to start with the graphic novels: Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks (recommended to me by my amazing daughter!), and then volumes 1 – 3 of Morning Glories, which I’ve been wanting to try.

The sixth and final book in the terrific Jane True series by Nicole Peeler comes out this week! I intend to re-read book 5, Tempest’s Fury, and then jump right into Tempest Reborn the second it arrives.

After that, I’ll hit the new (and last) Sookie Stackhouse book, Dead Ever After, which finally arrived at the library this week.boohide3

The kiddo and I just started Prince Caspian last night. These Narnia books are fun but fast, so I’d imagine that we’ll polish this one off before the end of the week.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

The Monday agenda 5/20/2013

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill: Finished! And just in time for the author’s book signing! My review (including random gushiness about the book event) is here.

Twerp by Mark Goldblatt: I read a review copy of this delightful book for middle-grade readers. My review is here.

The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig: Finished last night, review to follow. Quick response: I loved this imaginative re-telling of Hamlet!

Fresh Catch:

Just a few items this week. I bought myself copies of two books that I’d borrowed from the library and loved: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller and Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. In addition, I picked up an e-book version of The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd, which looks like the start of a promising trilogy.

The Dog StarsAttachmentsThe Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter, #1)

Looks like a few more books on my library hold list will come in the next few days as well — but sadly, no Sookie yet. For whatever reason, my library system still lists the new book as “on order”, despite the fact that it came out two weeks ago! Argh.

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

After finishing The Dead Fathers Club last night, I started Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley. After that, I’ll try to get through one or two library books, most likely starting with The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.

Meanwhile, I need to squeeze in a quick re-read of Tempest’s Fury, book 5 in the amazing Jane True series by Nicole Peeler. The sixth and final book comes out next week, and I want to be ready!

My son and I are about 2/3 of the way through The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and I expect we’ll be ready for book #3 in the Narnia series by the end of the week.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Romances

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Favorite Romances

At first, I was a tad confused by the topic. Should this be my favorite romance novels? (I don’t think I could name ten, to be honest.) Or top ten romantic books in general? But no, what makes the most sense is the top ten romantic pairings — the “supercouples” of fiction, with love stories that are remarkable, unsurpassed, unforgettable… or at least, different enough to be noteworthy! My list of romantic couples in fiction:

1) Jamie and Claire Fraser (Outlander): Speaking as an unabashed fan of the Outlander series, I just don’t think I could name a more romantic couple than Jamie and Claire. Put a tall, red-headed 18th century Highlander (in a kilt, please!) together with an outspoken 20th century medical woman, and sparks fly! A love story that crosses centuries, filled with humor and passion — what’s not to love?

2) Severus Snape and Lily Evans (Harry Potter series): Just because the love is unrequited doesn’t make it any less romantic. Poor Severus, doomed to spend his life paying for his part in the death of the one and only woman he ever loved. His patronus is a doe! This scene gives me chills every time I read it:

Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
“After all this time?”
“Always,” said Snape.

3) Henry and Clare (The Time Traveler’s Wife): This book just knocked me out when I first read it, which may explain why it’s one of the few books I’ve read twice in a row (and a couple more times since). Henry always finds his way back to Clare; Clare is his rock and his constant. I just love these two together.

4) Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont (A Discovery of Witches): The witch and the vampire who find a forbidden, prophecied love. Total hotness… plus a couple who meet in a library? How awesome is that? Academics need love too!

5) Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley (One Day). Best friends who finally – FINALLY – realize that they’re perfect for one another. This book made me laugh, yell, and cry. Dexter and Emma’s paths, alone and together, felt so true to me, and perhaps it’s this real-life element that makes their relationship feel so special and so romantic.

6) Mercy Thompson and Adam Hauptman (Mercedes Thompson series): I already included a witch and a vampire on my list; now here’s a shapeshifter and werewolf combination that’s just hot as can be and incredibly full of love and romance. I love this urban fantasy series, especially how it shows the evolution of Mercy and Adam’s relationship from wary acceptance to full-throttle love and devotion.

7) Jane True and Anyan Barghast (Jane True series): Long live the supernatural power couples! Jane’s a half-selkie, Anyan is a Barghast in the funny, crazy, high-powered world of Nicole Peeler’s Jane True series. It takes several books before these two finally wise up (and hook up), and it remains to be seen whether the author will grant them a HEA when the final book comes out in May.

8) David and Debra (Eagle in the Sky): This is going way back, but I read this Wilbur Smith novel when I was a young, starry-eyed teen and it just blew me away. Debra and David find a love that is tested over and over again by tragedy, and they always manage to find a way back to one another. I must have read this book half a dozen times in the couple of years after I first discovered it. I wonder whether it would stand the test of time if I reread it now?

9) Buttercup and Wesley (The Princess Bride):  Does this one even need an explanation? Are there better words for pledging undying love than “as you wish”? Twu wuv.

10) Snow White and Bigby Wolf (Fables): From my absolute favorite graphic novel series – I just adore the romance between these two strong-minded Fables. They have a marriage with more stress than most mundies could ever imagine, and yet they manage to maintain their love, respect, affection, and passion. Is it wrong to have a crush on a comic book character? Because that Bigby Wolf is just so… big and bad.

Honorable Mention:  All the rest that I don’t want to overlook: Really? Narrow it down to just ten? It all comes down to my mood, not to mention the fact that what I’ve read more recently is fresher in my mind… so here’s a bunch of other great romantic couples that just shouldn’t be forgotten:

  • Ron & Hermione, Harry & Ginny, Molly & Arthur, Remus & Tonks (sniff…) (Harry Potter)
  • Lyra & Will (His Dark Materials trilogy)
  • Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice)
  • Emma and Mr. Knightley (Emma)
  • Alexia Tarabotti and Conall Maccon (The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger)
  • Harper Connelly and Tolliver Lang (Grave Sight et al by Charlaine Harris)
  • Mariana and Richard (Mariana by Susanna Kearsley)
  • Heather and Brandon (The Flame and the Flower — the very first romance novel I ever read!)

Love is in the air. Happy Valentine’s Day! May you find romance, either in your real life or in the pages of a book!

Wishlist Wednesday

And now, for this week’s Wishlist Wednesday…

The concept is to post about one book from our wish lists that we can’t wait to read. Want to play? Here’s how:

  • Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
  • Please consider adding the blog hop button to your blog somewhere, so others can find it easily and join in too! Help spread the word! The code will be at the bottom of the post under the linky.
  • Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.
  • Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it’s on your wishlist.
  • Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of the post at Pen to Paper.
  • Put a link back to pen to paper (http://vogue-pentopaper.blogspot.com) somewhere in your post.
  • Visit the other blogs and enjoy!

My Wishlist Wednesday book is:

Tempest Reborn by Nicole Peeler
(to be published May 2013)

Tempest Reborn is the sixth and final book in Nicole Peeler’s Jane True series… and if you’ve never encountered Jane True, you’re missing out on some sassy, sexy, supernatural fun. Because I’m a big believer in not spoiling anything if I can help it, rather than quote the blurb for Tempest Reborn, I’m quoting instead from the blurb about the first book in the series, Tempest Rising:

From the author’s website:

In the tiny village of Rockabill, Maine, Jane True—26-year-old bookstore clerk and secret night swimmer—has no idea that her absent mother’s legacy is entry into a world populated by the origins of human myths and legends.  It is a world where nothing can be taken for granted: vampires are not quite what we think; dogs sometimes surprise us; and whatever you do, never—ever—rub the genie’s lamp.   For Jane, everything kicks off when she comes across a murder victim during her nightly clandestine swim in the freezing winter ocean.  This grisly discovery leads to the revelation of why she has such freakish abilities in the water: her mother was a Selkie and Jane is only half human. With this knowledge, Jane soon finds herself mingling with supernatural creatures alternately terrifying, beautiful, and deadly—all adjectives that quite handily describe her new friend Ryu.  When Ryu is sent to Rockabill to investigate the murder, he and Jane fall hard for each other even as they plummet into a world of intrigue threatening to engulf both supernatural and human societies.  For someone is killing half-humans like Jane.   The question is, are the murders the work of one rogue individual or part of a greater plot to purge the world of Halflings?

I just love this series. Jane True is a bookworm (hurray!), who at the start of the series is somewhat of a town outcast and who has a past that she can’t quite make sense of. Over the course of the series, we see her come into her own as she learns about her magical heritage, develops her seriously strong powers, is welcomed into a society of supernatural beings that were there all along, and finds both love and purpose in her life.

But it’s not all action and adventure. The Jane True books are hysterically funny, while at the same time include elements touching, scary, and downright tragic. Bad things can and do happen to Jane and her friends. And yet, I find myself laughing out loud when I read these books. Nicole Peeler drops pop culture references galore, has a ready supply of snappy one-liners, and doesn’t skimp on the sexy times. Another reason to love Jane? This is a heroine who appreciates good food as much as she appreciates good sex — and believe me, both are very important to her! Jane is smart and funny, and it’s easy to root for her throughout these engaging, entertaining books.

The only negative about wishing for Tempest Reborn? Once I read it, I’ll be done with the series… and the Jane True books are just too much fun to come to an end.

Quick note to Wishlist Wednesday bloggers: Come on back to Bookshelf Fantasies for Flashback Friday! Join me in celebrating the older gems hidden away on our bookshelves. See the introductory post for more details, and come back this Friday to add your flashback favorites!

Women who run, and the readers who resent them

During my recent re-read of A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness’s huge bestseller from 2011, I noticed something that hadn’t struck me as forcefully the first time around.

Man, that Diana Bishop runs a lot.

Oh, to be sure, there’s an explanation for why her fanatical running routines get such prominence in the story. Diana’s a spell-bound witch, you see, which means that she has a huge store of power inside her that she can’t access and use via magic. All that back-up  results in an excess of adrenaline, and to release it, Diana runs. Constantly. And rows. Up and down the river, in the fog, occasionally with her eyes closed, but you get the point. That woman MOVES.

Earlier this year, I read Ocean’s Touch, an erotic story by Denise Townsend centered on a lonely widow and the sexy selkie who reawakens her to the possibilities of life and love. (Yes, I said sexy selkie. Deal with it.)  Meredith is smart, sad, responsible… and she runs. A lot. Miles at a time.

And there’s more. It seems like every other book I read lately features a strong, sexy, intelligent woman with an intense, highly demanding fitness routine. A couple months back, I read the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, in which the heroine is a car mechanic, a shape-shifter, and a highly trained expert in a specialized martial arts discipline.

Even in the supremely silly Austenland by Shannon Hale, the Darcy-obsessed main character is so stymied by her faux-Regency immersion vacation that she must sneak outside for an early morning run in the gardens, corset and all. (Lesson learned: Corsets are not appropriate activewear. Invest in yoga pants instead).

Leaving aside Austenland, whose lead character simply cannot be taken seriously, the running and exercise habits of fictional women seem to be a sort of short-hand to denote certain character traits: intensity, intelligence, fierce independence, determination to go it alone. In the first three examples I mentioned, Diana, Meredith and Mercy start their stories as talented women who are walled off from their passions. When I read about a woman who’s a serious runner or other type of athlete, I generally know what to expect — this is a woman to be reckoned with, and often someone with issues to work out.

And where does that leave all of us, we the readers? If you’re like me, a low-to-moderate achiever on the scale of devotion to fitness, it’s a bit tough to take sometimes. Not only is Diana Bishop a Yale professor and a powerful witch, but she runs ten miles a day! Not only can Mercy fix a VW with her eyes closed, she can also kick your butt! Thank you, dear authors, for yet another reason to feel inadequate.

Perhaps this factors into why I love Jane True so very much. Jane is the creation of Nicole Peeler, and is the hilarious heroine of Tempest Rising and four other books (so far). Jane reads, works in a bookstore, and her appetite for hot sex is matched only by her appetite for delicious food. (Okay, to be fair, Jane also swims in the ocean on a daily basis, but that’s just to recharge her magical mojo… too much to explain here, but in Jane’s case, the exercise is part of her magic, not just a piece of her perfect fitness regimen.) Besides the fact that end I up laughing out loud whenever I read these books, I think I love Jane because if I met her in real life, I wouldn’t be intimidated by her perfectly toned abs and her runner’s legs — I’d be too busy pouring the hot chocolate and cutting up some pie to go with.

A final glimpse of the world of Jane True, in which our heroine finds herself confronting some hard choices in a diner with her would-be lover:

I wanted them all, but I also knew I was being greedy. Then Anyan’s deep voice rumbled from next to me.

“Why don’t I get the three-sausages and mash with the special sausages, and you get the same thing with the traditional ones, and the vegetarian, and we can share?”

At his words, I nearly choked on my emotions. You’re perfect, I thought…